If You Are the One (2008)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2011-01-21
Summary: Star power in a romantic comedy
I looked forward to “If You Are the One” based on an earlier Feng Xiaogang romantic comedy drama, (or however one could describe a serious movie based on a difficult relationship that has some funny scenes or a funny movie based on a difficult relationship that has serious scenes) “World without Thieves”. The earlier film dealt with more profound themes while the collapsing emotional ties between Andy Lau and Rene Liu that led us into the action were pushed to the background. In “If You Are the One” the developing and inevitable love between the characters is always front and center while merely touching on many issues facing Chinese people today.

It is very easy to like “If You Are the One” despite its well-worn plot, stock characters and by the numbers unfolding of the action. This is due to its stars. Ge You has a magnificently cinematic voice when delivering lines in Mandarin. One is caught be the effortless cadence, inflection and music of the language as he speaks it, a riveting performance even for one (like this one) who knows about ten words of Mandarin. Jean-Louis Trintignant in French and Bruno Ganz in German have the same gift.

Shu Qi brings real star power and authenticity to her portrayal of Smiley, a sophisticated woman who stays trapped in a hopeless relationship with the married and despicable lover, a cardboard villain. Alex Fong was limited to a couple of emotions; he was needy, greedy and always manipulative. Fan Wei who played Mr. Fan had a meatier role as Qin Fen’s buddy who knows Hokkaido and chauffeurs them around pointing out local landmarks.

Smiley is a great role—sexy, sardonic, full of wisdom but unable to see her own romantic failings and ultimately doomed (but not quite). Shu Qi makes the most of it, conveying paragraphs worth of dialogue with a quick smile and raised eyebrow. She has become an astonishingly affecting actress.

Smiley and Qin Fen run on intersecting lines that we know must meet in the last few minutes of the movie. We are willing to go along for the ride—a lot of “If You Are the One” takes place in Mr. Fan’s automobile—even though the destination is clear. Some of the detours and bumpy patches along the way are funny such as when Qin decides to stop at an isolated Catholic chapel to confess his sins to the priest there. He begins at the beginning—his early childhood—and hours later is still going through his sins almost day by day. The priest, a chubby fellow, is exhausted while Smiley and Fan waiting outside are beyond impatience. Earlier Qin wants to pray at a small Buddhist temple. Fan convinces the priest to let them in even though it is closed to visitors that day—closed due to the funeral rites of a big shot Yakuza whose thugs keep a wary eye on the interlopers.

Hokkaido has never looked better; the shots of the countryside could be used by the island’s tourism bureau. The movie is well paced, easily sliding from scene to scene and crisis to crisis. The early, establishing scenes of the women who respond to Qin’s personal ad for a companion/girlfriend are terrific, each a small comedic gem. Put simply, there isn’t much wrong with “If You Are the One” and many things very right. Recommended for the performances of Ge You and Shu Qi, particularly for fans of “serious” romantic comedy.
Reviewer Score: 8